Friday, February 23, 2007

New Blogger and the end of the world as we know it.



I am going to push the button.
I cannot put this off any longer. I am going to upgrade this blog from "old" blogger to "new" blogger. I have no confidence that this will go well. This blog began with a "standard" two column template nine months ago, and I've been hacking the crap out of it ever since. I don't even know what is in the template anymore. Blogger claims that everything will be fine and everything will work the same in New Blogger with the same template. It is only if and when I want to take advantage of the new features that I will have to convert to a new template and redo all customizations. So I am told. Why don't I believe it? I guess I am just not a very trusting soul.

Bloogle has been warning for a few weeks now that they have started forcing the upgrade. I've decided to do this on my timetable, rather than be surprised by theirs, so this weekend I push the button. No telling what will happen, but one undeniable possibility is that the whole blog gets lost or so screwed up that it becomes unusable. I don't know what I will do if that happens.

I'll see if I can figure out a way to back-up the blog first, but just in case these are the End Times for DWSUWF...
Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish.

UPDATE: February 26, 2007
Nevermind. Everything seemed to go just fine. It only took about 10 minutes once I pushed the button and it does look like everything is working the same. I'll be spending a few days poking around with the template and experimenting with new features, so there probably will be a content lull while I check things out. I will also be republishing recent posts in order to utilize the new blogger "labels" (tags?) feature for those posts.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

02:23 02/23 Presidential Candidate Stack Rank v. 2.3

Even though the latest list is only about a month old, the stack rank is looking stale. The candidates are breaking fast and hard out of the starting gate. Time for an update. No change in the top four spots, which are the ones I actually spend time thinking about. The common thread for the candidates in spots one through four - all were right on the war before the war, publicly and on the record. I've added a brief commentary and links for the top picks, which we will expand upon in future versions.
=====
DWSUWF 2008 Presidential Candidate
Stack Ranking v. 2.3

1) Chuck Hagel (R) -
Stirring up the Senate on Iraq. Formally announcing in 2 weeks?
2 ) Joe Biden (D) -
Despite verbal faux pas - still the man with the best Iraq plan.
3) Ron Paul (R) -
Arguably the single best House Iraq debate speech.
4) Barack Obama (D) -
Officially in, right on the war, Bear Fan.

5) Rudolf Giuliani (R)
6) Bill Richardson (D)
7) John McCain (R)
8) Hillary Clinton (D)
9) Mitt Romney (R)
10) Wesley Clark (D)
=====
Another common thread connecting the top four candidates - they are all smart and articulate. Yes I am using that word - I've used it to describe all these candidates before and I am not going to stop using it now. Here is the simple reality - after six years, the electorate is tired of the GWB shtick. By 2008 we will be completely exhausted by it, and will be drawn like a magnet to the opposite pole. Since Bush is not articulate, the next president is. We will need to use that word.

This is not about Biden. This is not about Obama. This is about finding the Anti-Bush. Regardless of party, we will elect the Anti-Bush in 2008. Smart and articulate is the Anti-Bush.

Changes since the last update: Rudy has jumped ahead of John McCain for the number three spot on the red list. Rudy has better libertarian credentials than McCain, who continues to leak principles, and lean further toward more authoritarian positions. If Rudy had not been wrong on the Iraq war, he would likely be my top candidate. He will need to join the reality based community on Iraq to get elected. I dropped Mike Huckabee because, well... because I cannot remember why he was on the list in the first place. He is replaced by Mitt Romney. Make no mistake, I think Romney, like Clinton, is a consummate politician, whose convictions are determined at the intersection of his/her ambition and the most current polls. But since a large majority of the American populace want us out of Iraq, that means they will both make the right decisions on the war should they get elected. Good enough for now.

As a reminder, the DWSUWF stack ranking is a preference not a prediction. This list represents the top ten candidates we would like to see as President, stack ranked in order. Imposed on this list are two constraints: alternating political party affiliation, and a divided government outcome in 2008.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Unity08 and fellow travellers Tony Snow and David Gregory promote Un-American activities.


This gem by way of QandO blog and Think Progress:
"NBC News’ David Gregory bemoaned how political coverage has “become so polarized in this country…because it’s the internet and the blogs that have really used this White House press conferences to somehow support positions out in America, political views.” Tony Snow admitted he sometimes reads blogs (”I’ll occasionally punch it up”) only to find “wonderful, imaginative hateful stuff that comes flying out.”
So... Gregory and Snow agree that the blogosphere has exacerbated these new extremes of "hateful" partisan "polarization" in American politics. Bloggers at QandO and ThinkProgress take umbrage (as did blogs from across the political spectrum including Starked, The RNC Blog, Noisyroom.net, RedState, TexasFred, Hullaballoo, Shakespeare's Sister, Crooks and Liars, etc.) And just like that, Gregory and Snow have swept away all political partisanship in the blogosphere in a unified display of bi-partisan outpouring of scorn heaped on umm... Gregory and Snow.

QandO blogs reaction serves as a proxy:
"Blogs aren't the reason that political coverage has "become so polaraized in this country", they're the result. The reason for such polarization lies with the political and journalistic class in this country."
While they may differ on who is to blame for the polarization, all agree that this political polarization is really, really bad. Indeed, I just received another e-mail from Sam Waterston, the trusted face of the Unity08 promoters (noted anti-polarizers) asking for donations to help fight this scourge of polarized partisan politics in America. Unity08, despite having no candidates, and no actual positions on any issues facing this country, is garnering all kinds of publicity, built a slick web-site with a large community, and working on raising millions of dollars. All this on the strength of nothing but taking a principled stand against partisan polarized politics. Here Unity08 speaks out boldly on "What We Believe":
"Unity08 believes that neither of today’s major parties reflects the aspirations, fears or will of the majority of Americans. Both have polarized and alienated the people."
So this is what I don't get. Exactly when in our history did this golden era of partisan comity, respectful debate, and political unity (which we are apparently so nostalgic for) actually occur?

Just tell me - when was it like that? When?

I wonder, because my understanding of our history is that the kind of rancor and political polarization in the United States we see today is the rule, and not the exception. In fact, it strikes me that in historical context, we are today quite a bit less polarized and extreme than these examples:
"During the nation's first contested presidential election in 1796, supporters of Vice President John Adams charged his challenger, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, with atheism, sexual improprieties, and dangerous revolutionary intentions. For their part, Jefferson backers accused Adams of plotting to establish a monarchy, crown himself king, and ally the country with its foe, Great Britain."

"In the election of 1800, Vice President Thomas Jefferson was tarred as an agent of the French Revolution..."

"Opponents of Andrew Jackson accused him of murder, while Old Hickory’s men whispered that his rival John Quincy Adams had been, while U.S. minister to Russia, a pimp for the tsar.."

"In 1864 the Lincoln reelection campaign equated opposition to the president and the Republican party with disloyalty to the Union..., depicted the Democrats essentially as traitors."

"Democrats also got personal, characterizing Grant as an alcoholic, uncouth, simple-minded, unprincipled, Negro-loving tyrant... "

"After the Civil War the Republicans would "wave the bloody shirt"-that is, associate the Democratic party with secession and opposition to the Union war effort-in every presidential election into the 1880s. The 1868 Democratic presidential nominee, Horatio Seymour, was an especial target of the "bloody shirt" because while New York governor in 1863 he had addressed the New York City draft rioters as "My friends." Others labeled his links to the Peace Democrats as the equivalence of treason."

"Democrats accused Rutherford Hayes of stealing the pay of deceased soldiers while he was a Union general, opposing citizenship for all immigrants, and income tax fraud. One Democrat encouraged the Tilden camp, to no avail, to investigate the question, "Did Hayes shoot his mother in a fit of insanity?"

"An Oct. 26 headline in the New York Times: "President Likens Dewey to Hitler as Fascists’ Tool."
And of course there is the particularly divisive 1860 election, when we as a country, actually decided to spend the post election environment literally shooting and killing over 600,000 of our fellow citizens.

One is tempted to suggest that unity, political civility, and polite debate is downright Un-American.

This interesting fact is from the same excellent HarpWeek website quoted above:
"The period from 1840 to 1890 has been labeled "the party period" and "the golden age of parties" because the major political parties (Democrats and Whigs until the mid-1850s, then Democrats and Republicans) were the strongest they have been in American history. Party leaders used patronage and campaign practices that aroused partisan enthusiasm to gain wide membership and keep them loyal and active. It worked. Voter turnout during this period was the highest in American history: between 70 and 80 percent for presidential elections and sometimes higher in state and local contests."
By comparison, the Voter turnout in the recent 2006 midterm election was slightly over 40%, an increase over the 39.7% turnout in the 2002 midterms. In the 2004 and 2000 presidential elections the turnout was 55% and 50% respectively.

Sure, this is only a couple of data points, but being a polarizing blogger I have no problem leaping to a sweeping conclusion. It seems pretty obvious to me, that if we want more participation by the American voting populace, we want more, not less, political polarization. And conversely, a unified, politically correct, socially acceptable and boring form of partisan discourse, will inevitably result in less participation in the political process.

What to do ? I suggest we just don't pay attention to those Un-American unifiers.

Instead, I submit for your consideration - Divided We Stand United We Fall Rule #1:

Polarized Partisan Politics Promotes Popular Participation.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Carnival of Divided Government DECIMUS - Presidents' Day Edition

One Dollar CoinWelcome to the tenth edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - Special Presidents' Day Edition. As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration, in order to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series.

Introduction
In this Carnival of Divided Government DECIMUS - Presidents' Day Edition, as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and mainstream media on the singular topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to use the words "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions.

Presidents' Day
Or, more accurately - George Washington's birthday, the holiday we used to celebrate this time of year, until George was forced to share his holiday with lesser Presidents. Presidents like that slacker Abraham Lincoln, who - if memory serves me correctly - did not even bother to finish his second term. This abomination has not escaped the notice of our lawmakers in Washington D.C. The "Suitably Flip" blogger Flip reports on one congressman's efforts to right this egregious wrong in his post "Happy Washington's Bicenterquasquigenary".

The danger of diluting Washington's birthday with other Presidents became evident last week. The U.S. Mint, emboldened by the holiday devaluation, set their sights on stripping George of his long-held title as "The One" in their announcement of a new series of one dollar coins. Wonkette was on the story, revealing the sordid truth in her post "U.S. Mint Banking On Americans' Love Of Dead White Men." The new coinage has already begun to circulate with George Washington in his accustomed place of honor on the obverse of the coin. But it will be downhill from here, as the Mint also announced plans to issue the same coin with every single president featured, including - believe it or not - the last two. I know. The first two coins to be released are featured in this post, as well as the artwork to be used to create the last two (displayed at the bottom of the post). Don't ask me where I got these. I have my sources.

With our brand spanking new divided government creating all kind of problems for the current chief executive, what better time to take blogospheric stock of the situation with a Carnival of Divided Government?

Carnival (on-topic)
We begin with the mainstream media, and a new entry in the politcal publishing genre - Politico. They began publication this year as a umm... newspaper? magazine? website? blog? on-line community? Actually, I have not quite figured out exactly what they are, probably due to my being located on the opposite coast. No matter - Politico journalists Mike Allen and John Harris interview political pundit Karl Rove, well known for his advocacy of bi-partisanship and his even handed and fair-minded approach to the political process:
Q. "What historical precedents are informing you and President Bush as you study the challenges from the elections?"
A. "Well, there are lots, because most American presidents governed for some significant part of -- some of them for all of -- their term or terms with Congress controlled by the party of the opposition. How does a president govern with the Congress controlled by the opposite party? The irony is that at first blush, there's a lot of constructive stuff that gets done. It's under divided government that Reagan gets tax reform, the latter half of his term in office. It's under divided government that Clinton gets welfare reform. We got No Child Left Behind passed with a divided Congress."
Since Karl clearly understands that divided government works so well, should we be surprised that he worked so hard to make sure it never happened? Nevermind. Rhetorical.

The Maiden
takes Blogs for Bush to task, presenting "Blogs for Not realizing that Cars have Brakes" posted at Hell's Handmaiden and accurately observes that under divided government, things are actually working the way they are supposed to work:
"Though I disagree with the Republican stance here, this strikes me as what the two parties ought to be doing. The Democrats are doing what they can, and are probably not doing enough of what they can, and the Republicans are doing what they can in return. It is a clumsy system, but it seems to be one of the better systems. This clumsy system is in fact part of the brakes, as corrupted and ill maintained as they have become, that Noonan can’t seem to find. Government is supposed to be chopped up among warring factions. It is supposed to be divvied up. It is supposed to be divided."
Across the political spectrum, bloggers are coming to the same conclusion.

Roly Machado, a first generation Cuban-American, a political science major, and a blogging Midshipmen at Annapolis, shares his views on divided government(good) and Congress (bad) in "Congress and Debate", posted at Notions of One Roly Machado:
"A divided government is good, if the people can disagree. If they can argue. Our Congress doesn't do that anymore. They make their voting decisions in their offices with suggestions. I'm willing to give Congress the benefit of the doubt, they actually think through it. They assess every bit and piece of the legislation and they make sure they understand it. But for heaven's sake can we please get back to the debate? The debate is important in and of itself. It allows creativity and let's you see different points of view. Let's debate the issues. Let's work through the problems. Let's find a solution. Let's not focus on SHIT. Let's focus on the importance of disagreement that our founding fathers intended..."
Also check out Roly's post about the lecture by Colin Powell advisor Colonel Wilkerson, for a perspective on failed Iraq WMD intelligence that you won't see anywhere else.

Tony asserts in "Asserting Authority" posted at Bush The Idiot that divided government is working while leaning on an AP news story for support:
Finally, we are getting a congress that has a backbone. See how divided government is better for this country? Republican or Democrat–having total power is no good.... - AP House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that President Bush lacks the authority to invade Iran without specific approval from Congress..."
Aaron Banks references a Brookings Institute OP-ED in the New York Times in his post Bi-partisan Plan to Eliminate the Deficit posted at the NDN Blog:
"Recognizing the new political realities of divided government, the Brookings Institute has issued a bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit. Collaborating on the plan are former Congressmen Charlie Stenholm (D-TX) and Bill Frenzel (R-MN), as well as Brookings scholars Isabel Sawhill and William Hoagland. They outline their proposal in an Op-Ed piece in the NYT: On spending, we would put a hard cap on all appropriations that freezes spending at fiscal 2008 levels. This would allow one federal program’s financing to increase only if another program’s budget were cut. We also propose accelerating the increase in the retirement age to 67 from 66, improving the way Social Security benefits are indexed for inflation and making other modest adjustments in the major entitlement programs..."
BNJ optimistically gushes about "Divided government, working for you" in an anything but cynical post at Cynical Nation:
"This is cool! Republicans in Congress just blocked a congressional pay increase. Of course if Republicans were still running the show, the COLA would have sailed through like a greased pig. Stuff like this is exactly the reason I was cautiously optimistic about the Democratic takeover last year. If it takes being in the minority for Republicans to act like conservatives, then so be it. I have no illusions about what's going on here, of course. This isn't about responsible stewardship of the taxpayers' money. It's about partisan spite, plain and simple. I'll take it."
Joe Gandleman is reassuring about the benefits precipitated by divided government in "White House Reverses Course On Warrantless Wiretaps Program" posted at The Moderate Voice:
"If there is any doubt of the impact of divided government and the subsequent Sword of Damacles it imposes of oversight via vigorous investigations, hearings and opposition politicos getting louder microphones, this story seemingly lessens it: The Bush administration said yesterday that it has agreed to disband a controversial warrantless surveillance program run by the National Security Agency, replacing it with a new effort that will be overseen by the secret court that governs clandestine spying in the United States."
The Orange County Daily Press is less certain, but hopeful when asking the question "Is veto pen ready?":
"We’re about to find out whether divided government really means more prudent spending by the government, as some of us have hoped. President Bush’s $2.9 trillion budget spending proposal, delivered Monday, offers a small dollop of hope. Whether the newly empowered Democratic majority in Congress shreds it by insisting on higher domestic spending – and whether the president will find his veto pen if that happens – may tell the tale."
Andrew Roth uncovers an interesting fact from the Rasmussen Report highlighting that "38% of Voters Like Divided Government" posted at the Club for Growth:
"Thirty-eight percent (38%) of American voters believe it’s better for the country when one political party controls Congress and the other major party controls the White House. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of 800 Likely Voters found that 29% disagree and believe that divided government is bad for the country. Thirty-three percent (33%) are not sure."
That 29% obviously represent the hard-core partisans - a much smaller percentage than I would have guessed. I have no idea what the other 33% are thinking. Maybe they are not. Some bloggers, such as well... ahem... moi, have begun looking at what the ramifications of supporting divided government will mean in 2008.

Ross has a problem with which I can sympathize. He writes about his trouble in Chicago in "Annoying DMS" posted at Three Sheets to the Wind:
"There is usually (read: never) a reason to pull a Republican ballot in a primary here in Chicago. For one thing, there are almost never any down ballot candidates. None. If you plan to vote for judges, don't bother pulling a Republican ballot. No one is home. When it comes to national elections, there is still no reason to pull a Republican ballot for the primary because you lose out on every other election. If you pull a ballot so you can vote for Republican senator you are going to miss out on voting for any local candidate and most state offices. Basically this is a long disjointed way of saying, you vote Democrat no matter who you are because it's the only party in Cook County. But now I have a problem.... This year may be different. I'm a Rudy fan. I think he is a great candidate being liberal on social issues and conservative on fiscal matters. I also like his stance on the War against Terrorism... I'd rather liberal social/conservative fiscal win than a hard right goof, a hard left goof or a moderate democrat because I don't think they'll be able to maintain moderation with a democratic congress. Divided government led by a very moderate Republican and a moderate Democratic congress.. that's the life for me... His biggest challenge is to win the Republican primary. I just don't see the far right embracing him. So I should vote for him in the Illinois primary to give him the votes if it'll help. But if I do that, I can't vote for any other meaningful election. Hmm, plus, the local officials will know I took a Republican ballot which wouldn't be a good thing."
I am from Chicago, and understand exactly what he is saying. I have been living in San Francisco for 23 years, and local politics are surprisingly similar. There is exactly one party in The City. But like Ross, I want to get behind an acceptable Republican for President to maintain divided government, and the primary is what counts. Decisions, decisions.

Jason Kuznicki muses about a similar issue and arrives at a similar stack rank of the Republican hopefuls in "Occasional Notes - Department of 08" posted at Positive Liberty:
"I’m committed to divided government, which means I’m on the Republicans’ side for now, which means I might just be committed to Giuliani in 2008. I do think Giuliani is the only Republican who can win both in the GOP primaries and nationally: McCain ruined his image as a maverick by his general support for the conduct of the war. Brownback and Romney are presumptive nonstarters: The religious right has never gotten their candidate on the national ticket unaided; Bush won because he was considered a moderate and a continuer of his father’s legacy. Now that we know how a religious conservative will govern, I doubt the swing voters will want another one. Chuck Hagel could mount a serious primary challenge, but he won’t win the nomination: You have to seem tough on Iraq, or at least on terrorists, and his opponents are going to plaster him for his criticism of the war, even if it has been smart, incisive, and much-needed (there’s a fine line here, between criticizing too much and too little, one best walked in total silence). Ron Paul’s candidacy will simply underline how homeless libertarians have become in today’s GOP. He still gets my vote, of course, for what little that’s worth. But I’m afraid it’s going to be Giuliani in 2008."
Hard to argue with that analysis. I'd prefer Paul or Hagel, but will settle for Giuliani. Finally, one more semi-mainstream media pundit weighs in.

David Weigel presents "Fusionists on Parade" posted at the Reason Magazine blog Hit & Run:
"Since we've learned that the optimal real-world political situation for libertarians is divided government, shouldn't the libertarian vote be incredibly fungible? That is, they should vote for Republicans when a Democrat is president and vote Democratic when a Republican is president? A Republican president appointing economically conservative judges with a Democratic Congress nixing the occasional lunatic nominee and blocking his efforts to wage ridiculous wars; a Democratic president appointing socially liberal judges with a Republican Congress cutting his spending requests."
My very direct answer to David's question is in the comments on that post.

Carnival (off-topic)
Finally, we conclude with the longstanding (five month) tradition at The Carnival of Divided Government to include one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgement and symbolic proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. The winner for this edition is ...

Praveen, who presents Jake Witmer, Tao, and Libertarianism posted at Tao of Simplicity:
"But Taoism also preaches a libertarian, laissez faire attitude to government. Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, distrusted and disliked the complexity and bureaucracy of Confucianism. When it comes to complex vs. simple, nothing beats the government!"
Why Praveen? A post about simplicity and libertarianism, and Tao, and my logo is is derived from a taoist symbol. It just seemed right. I think he means "nothing is worse than the government!" But, no worries. I get it.

Miscellany
With that we conclude this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not). The next edition will probably be the Carnival of Divided Government UNDECIMUS - Special Ides of March Edition, which we hope to post on Thursday, March 15 - but it might be the Carnival of Divided Government UNDECIMUS - Special St. Patricks Day Hangover Edition and posted on Sunday, March 18. I am qualifying the date, as there is a very good chance I will be off-line and on board my friend's sailboat Morpheus, somewhere between Cabo and San Diego on that date. So far I have hosted all CODGOV editions here at DWSUWF, but I am open to breaking with that tradition if anyone is interested in hosting the next edition. Otherwise, I may even skip March altogether and leap ahead to the Carnival of Divided Government UNDECIMUS - Special April Fools Edition on April 1. Send me an e-mail at [mw AT dividedwestandunitedwefall DOT com] if you are interested in hosting the next edition. Blog articles may be submitted for the carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Finally, if you enjoyed this carnival, you shoul also check out the first edition of the brand new "This Is Not My Country Carnival" hosted at Hell's Handmaiden, who is also an occasional contributor to this carnival. Also, take a circle around the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government

Sunday, February 18, 2007

President vs. Congress - Round Six & Seven

This series started with a boxing metaphor to describe a heavyweight fight between the Executive and Legislative branches of government over the handling of the Iraq war. While appropriate for rounds 1,2, and 3, we were forced to transition to a World Wrestling Federation Steel Cage Match metaphor to capture the nuanced struggle on the floor of the Senate in rounds 4 and 5. The latest rounds involved a House Resolution disapproving of the escalation in Iraq, which precipitated important votes in the House and the Senate. The result of the speech-a-thon in the House of Representatives was a vote of 246-182 in opposition to the President's escalation plan. Clearly this is a blow for the President, and round 6 goes to the Congress. But now we face another metaphorical challenge. When I look to describe the debate, the WWF Steel Cage match metaphor fails to capture the epic quality of the House battle and the sheer volume of characters engaged in this round of the struggle. I've thought long and hard about this, and I think I have the answer. The new metaphor is the Battle of the Pellennor Fields during the siege of Minas Tirith from the The Lord of the Rings. Work with me on this...

Round 6 - The Metaphor
We start with Denethor, last Steward (lame duck) of Gondor, pretender to the throne, living in the White Castle, going mad after communicating with the dark side, and bringing his nation to the brink of ruin with an incompetent war strategy. I don't want to get too hung up on who are the partisan "good guys" and 'bad guys" with this metaphor. After all, men fought on both sides of the battle of Minas Tirith, some aligned with Orcs and Wraithes, some aligned with Dwarves and Wizards, just like you have Republicans and Democrats on both sides of this Executive vs. Legislative battle. Of course there were those "oliphaunts" on the Field of Pelannor which are metaphorically impossible to ignore, as well as a future king leading an army of the undead, who are paying penance for their treachery during a lost war fought decades before. Are you still with me? Keep in mind that this is a metaphor, not an analogy. There is no requirement for the Battle in the House of Representatives to exactly follow the plot line of the Lord of Rings. For example, unlike Tolkien's version, Nancy "Galadriel" Pelosi decided to go ahead and wear The Ring of Power in this version. Of course, she promised to do only good with the power, but despite being well beyond her self-imposed 100 hour initiative time limit, she has yet to take "the precious" off her finger. Ok, I have taken this far enough. A full Tolkien-esque acccounting of the Battle in the Field of the House of Representatives is left as an exercise for the reader.

Round 6 - The Debate
Much has been written about the battle in the MSM and the blogosphere, and we will not re-hash all that here. DWSUWF will be content to simply highlight a few speeches that caught our attention, and make a couple of observations.

The two most thoughtful, non-partisan, and intellectually honest speeches in the House debate were by Republicans, one voting for the resolution and one voting against. Both are presented here.


Ron Paul R-TX and Jeff Flake R-AZ

Coincidently, Ron and Jeff are also the two most libertarian members in the House of Representatives. Perhaps not coincidently, Ron Paul is running for President, and my second choice behind Chuck Hagel

The membership is fond of calling the House of Representatives the People's House. This vote on the resolution critical of the escalation in Iraq is an accurate reflection of the concerns of the American electorate. A vote on this resolution would never have taken place in the previous Congress, but if it had, it would not have passed in the previous Congress. Here is one example of what has changed in Congress and why.

Jason Altmire is a freshman representative elected from Pennsylvania's 4th Congressional District. He was a political unknown who won against three term incumbent Republican Melissa Hart, a "rising star" in the Republican party who was considered to have a "safe" congressional seat in a "safe" Republican District. She outspent Jason Altmire 2 to 1 in the campaign. This was Melissa Hart's view on the Iraq war:
Compare and contrast with the perspecive of the congressman that now represents Pennsylvania's 4th District.


Jason Altmire D-PA

Republicans have yet to pay attention to what really happened in 2006. Melissa Hart was a smart, competent and well liked Representative from a safe district. She lost. She confused being an apologist for George Bush's failed Iraq policies with being a Republican conservative. Representatives are exactly that - a representative proxy for the people in their district. Jason Altmire represents the Pennsylvania 4th district better than Melissa Hart. Too many Republicans continue to make the same mistake as Hart. They risk turning the Republican party into an ineffectual political force for a generation. We cannot have a divided government, if the major parties are not roughly balanced, and they cannot be balanced if the Republican party fails to acknowledge reality. We conclude these observations with one more Republican member of the House, whose arguments we found less than compelling. I am not sure if he accurately represents his district, but if he does, this is a part of the country I plan to avoid.


Smeagol Gollum, R-VA

Round 7 - Senate Cloture yet again.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dropped the failed Warner/Levin attempt at a bi-partisan resolution in favor of a Saturday vote on the House resolution. The partisan dynamic and the speeches on the floor were a replay of the cloture vote last week. In this vote the "gang of seven" Republicans voted with the Democrats supporting cloture, creating a majority of 56-34 in support. The measure still fell short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate to avaid a fillibuster and pass the resolution. Sigh - forget the LOTR metaphor. Lets try poker.

Despite anyone's high-minded rhetoric, the debate over the escalation in Iraq cannot be seperated from politics and it is naive to think differently. Democrats outmaneuvered the Republicans on public perception of the debate in the Senate, and are holding a better political poker hand. There was no reason for Harry Reid to fold that hand. Either party could have yielded political posturing to get the debate and the vote. Republicans could have agreed to a vote on the bipartisan Warner/Levin resolution. They could have agreed to vote on the Resolution passed by the House. They continue to bluff with a losing hand. The Democrats could have agreed to an additional vote on the Gregg amendment. But the Democrats are winning the P.R. battle, so there is no reason to do so. Republicans were and are painted as obstructing an embarassing vote for the President. Call. The cards are on the table. The fact remains there was no vote and no real debate, but the Republicans took the blame. We'll call round seven a draw in the executive/legislative battle.

Through 7 Rounds: Congress - 3, President - 2, Draw - 2.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Senator Chuck Hagel calls BS on Senator Kay Hutchison, and...

... and Senator Joe Lieberman, and Senator John McCain and Senators Inhofe, Kyl, Lott, Craig, Hatch, Stevens, Bond & Cochran, not to mention the Senate Leadership of both parties - Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.

He does like Senator John Warner though.

You gotta love this guy. This video is of Hagel speaking from the Senate floor yesterday, making good on the promise of John Warner's letter to introduce amendments and fight until the Warner\Levin\Hagel\Biden resolution is debated in the Senate. Hagel takes on Senators who have called the resolution "ambiguous", "irresolute", "inconsistent", "meaningless", "irrelevant" "unprecedented", and claiming that "one cannot support the troops while criticizing the mission", by showing these self-same Senators supported similar binding and no-binding resolutions when Bill Clinton was president.



The full text of Chuck Hagel's statement linked here. Hat tip to the Texas Toad at North Texas Liberal for pointing me in the right direction on Hutchison quotes.

As time permits I will update this post with links to specific resolutions highlighted by Chuck Hagel in the speech.

UPDATE: February 14, 2007
As promised, this recent Kay Hutchison (R-TX) quote is highlighted in the video: "The worst thing we can do as a Congress is to undercut the president internationally. Passing a resolution that is not binding — the president is the commander in chief — I think sends exactly the wrong message.” - Jan '07.

In the above quote Senator Hutchison is, of course, referencing President Bush. In December of 1995, she apparently felt differently about undercutting President Clinton internationally. This is the non-binding resolution she sponsored on the floor of the Senate (full text):

SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 35--RELATIVE TO BOSNIA
(Senate - December 13, 1995) [Page: S18565]

Mrs. HUTCHISON (for herself, Mr. Inhofe, Mr. Craig, Mr. Nickles, Mr. Kyl, Mr. Lott, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Brown, Mr. Burns, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Coats, Mr. D'Amato, Mr. Domenici, Mr. Faircloth, Mr. Frist, Mr. Grams, Mr. Hatch, Mr. Helms, Mr. Kempthorne, Mr. Murkowski, Mr. Pressler, Mr. Santorum, Mr. Shelby, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Smith, Mr. Stevens, Mr. Thomas, Mr. Thompson, and Mr. Thurmond) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was considered and not agreed to:

S. Con. Res. 35
Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring),

SECTION 1. EXPRESSING OPPOSITION TO THE DEPLOYMENT DECISION.
The Congress opposes President Clinton's decision to deploy United States military ground forces into the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina to implement the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its associated annexes.

SEC. 2 EXPRESSING SUPPORT FOR UNITED STATES MILITARY PERSONNEL WHO ARE DEPLOYED.
The Congress strongly supports the United States military personnel who may be ordered by the President to implement the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its associated annexes.

SEC. 3. TRANSMITTAL OF RESOLUTION.
The Secretary of the Senate shall transmit a copy of this concurrent resolution to the President.

The resolution failed 47-52 in favor of Senate Resolution 44 a few days later (more on 44 here).

Finally, some breaking Valentines Day news. As round 6 of the President/Congress Constitutional wrestling match plays out in the House of Representatives, Senator Harry Reid has jettisoned the Warner/Levin amendment to take up the House version upon the Senates return from the the President's Day break.


Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mini Monday Miscellany - University of Houston Edition

Just clearing the decks before the bell rings for the next exciting round in our Constitutional wrestling match, scheduled to begin in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

University of Houston Homework
Over the last few days, I noticed a mini-spike in visitors from the University of Houston domain (UH.edu). Ok, I obsess over sitemeter stats. These Texas visitors stood out with a similar footprint: they got here by way of google searches on "divided goverment"; hit multiple pages; focused on the more scholarly links; and staying longer than your average visitor. I'd like to believe that DWSUWF has suddenly become a cool destination for UH surfers, but more likely, it's a homework assignment. I'm guessing it's Professor Murray's class. So if you are here from the University of Houston, make sure you change the words, your classmates have been here too. If I got this right, I am curious about any papers that come out of the assignment, and will offer a guest post on this blog for any students interested in publishing it here. I won't be able to resist commenting on your work, but I'll probably give you a better grade than your T.A.

Carnivale Notes & Call for Submissions
The next edition will be the Carnival of Divided Government DECIMUS - Special Presidents' Day Edition, will be posted in one week on Monday, February 19. Submit your blog article for the carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page. Be advised that in this edition (as in all of the CODGOV series) we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and mainstream media on the singular topic of government divided between the major parties. Use of the words "divided government" in submitted posts virtually guarantees inclusion in the carnival. Absence of those same words virtually guarantees exclusion from the carnival. That is, after all, what the Carnival is about.

Speaking of Blog Carnivals, a couple of good ones to check out:

Finally, I managed to get through another week without migrating to "New Blogger". It may happen this week and I still have no confidence that this will go well.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Obama declares candidacy for Vice-President & launches pre-emptive strike on Boomers.

To the surprise of no one, while standing in the footprints of Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama formally anounced his candidacy for the Vice Presidency of the United States. Some were surprised that he chose the announcement to launch a vitriolic attack against the Baby Boom generation saying [paraphrasing here, as I have not seen the actual transcript]:
"It is time to rip the reins of power from the hands of the Boomer generation! I ask you, what have the boomers given to this country? Two Presidents, that is what they have given us. Bill Clinton and George W Bush. The first impeached president since Andrew Johnson and the worst president in history. That is what they have given us and that is more than enough. This was the best the boomers had to offer this great country of ours. These are the representatives of their generation that they sent to lead us. My friends, my fellow Americans, we cannot risk another Boomer President! It is time to move on. It is time for a new generation of leadership."
Oh wait. That was not a paraphrase of Barack Obama's speech. That was actually a paraphrase of my December 13 post - Da Bears, Da Barack, Da Boomers. This is actually what Barack said:

“Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what’s needed to be done. Today we are called once more - and it is time for our generation to answer that call…Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age…. And as our economy changes, let’s be the generation that ensures our nation’s workers are sharing in our prosperity…. Let’s be the generation that ends poverty in America…. Let’s be the generation that finally tackles our health care crisis…. Let’s be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil…. Let’s be the generation that makes future generations proud of what we did here. Most of all, let’s be the generation that never forgets what happened on that September day and confront the terrorists with everything we’ve got.”

Once again, a hat-tip to the Carpetbagger Report, for pointing out that Barack used the word "generation" at least 12 times in the 20 minute speech. Apparently he is builiding his campaign on on a foundation of Baby Boomicide. One has to ask - why the generational focus? I submit, that this is a realistic political calculation by a young, self-assured, very smart, very ambitious politician, who understands that his path to the presidency requires a stepping stone as Vice-President.

A key element in the selection of any Vice-Presidential candidate, is to identify what constituency they bring to a ticket. From a purely political perspective, it is interesting to ask - Exactly what constituency does Barack Obama bring to a Democratic ticket? It is not his home state. Illinois is already True Blue. It is not the black vote, Hillary Clinton outpolls Barack Obama among blacks. But if Barack can bring a generational constiutency, if he can mobilize a demographic block that historically cannot even be bothered to vote, then Barack would be a formidable addition to any Democratic ticket. This is a campaign to capture that constituency and trade it for a spot on the ticket.

Obama for Vice-President!


Update: February 12, 2007
The Washington Post reports that "...Obama indicated in his earliest steps on the campaign trail that he considers Iraq a central distinction between himself and the rest of the Democratic field." Also know as the "It's the war, stupid" campaign strategy. Obama has a clear advantage with this strategy over other Dems. Republicans would do well to take note and get behind the one Republican who could neutralize the strategy with the American electorate in the general election - Chuck Hagel.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

President vs. Congress - Round Four & Five

I thought this might happen. The boxing metaphor is just not cutting it. This is clearly a World Wrestling Federation Tag-Team Steel Cage Tournament. A brief recap for those keeping score:

Round 1- Declared a draw, while bipartisan congressional tag-teams formed and warmed up for their matches with the executive branch. In an exhibition match, Every member of the Senate Armed Services Committee took turns repeatedly body slamming Secretary of State Condi Rice to the mat.

Round 2 - A split decision for the executive branch, when the President effectively took advantage of the superior gravitas, weight and arm-reach that is incumbent in the office and secured the decision over feisty challenger Jim Webb during the State of the Union speech.

Round 3 - Awarded to the Congress. The executive got slammed with a potent right/left legislative combination delivered by Senators Warner, Levin, Hagel and Biden. Dual Resolutions opposing the surge hit the Senate floor with a near 3-count pin of the presidential Iraq strategy. In a display of legislative muscle, unhappy with the peformance of his team, Chuck Hagel picked the entire Senate up over his head, performed a triple helicopter spin, and threw them completely out of the ring.
That brings us to Round 4. A surprising one-on-one challenge match. The President moved quickly to re-establish the SOTU momentum for the executive branch with a quick take-down of the legislature in an impromptu press conference featuring the newly confirmed General David Petraeus:
Q: Thank you, sir. The other night in your State of the Union address, you asked Congress to give your plan a chance. But lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, didn't really miss a step in starting to turn out resolutions against that plan. Why do you think it's okay to go ahead without their support?

THE PRESIDENT: One of the things I've found in Congress is that most people recognize that failure would be a disaster for the United States. And in that I'm the decision maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster. In other words, I had to think about what's likely to work.

With a nifty jiu-jitsu move, Legislative authority was re-asserted by Senator Arlin Spector (R-Penn), who once again reinforced that this is truly a constitutional battle royale between co-equal branches of government, and not a polarized partisan dust-up:
"Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, pushed back against Bush's claim he is the "decision maker," saying the White House needs to accept Congress's role in shaping war policy. "I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider," Specter said during a hearing on Congress's war powers. "The decider is a shared and joint responsibility."
Specter is simply asserting an obvious statement of fact. Nevertheless, it kicked up the usual mindless knee-jerk reaction from the ragged blogospheric right. Their disdain for reality based policies and politics is very worrisome for those of us who would like to see Divided Goverment extended past 2008, which stae requires that Republicans maintain the White House in 2008. The clearest indicator and most amusing aspect of this disconnect from reality is the misguided and impotent "NRSC Pledge" petition effort. The adherents apparently believe that a 50,000 signature on-line petition somehow trumps the mid-term election results (where the Republicans lost the majority in the Senate while squandering an overwhelming structural advantage in 2006). Round 4 - Legislature on a TKO.

Round 5 was a conducted under the auspices of a Legislative WrestleMania Pay-per-view event back in the steel cage of the Senate early this week. The Executive Branch pounced with a masterful procedural partisan pretzel-hold on the Republicans in the Senate, while Democrats were caught off balance in an inexplicable twisting head-up-the-ass posture. The complexity of the pretzel-hold confounded even the most experienced partisan wrestling fans, and its intricate leverage is still being analyzed and discussed. Some of the internal tension of the pretzel-hold was visible in this exchange between Democrat Joe Lieberman and Republicans John Warner and Chuck Hagel (note:Rated M for Mature Language):



An amplification and documentation of a detail in this video is merited. In his Monday speech on the Senate floor, Joe Lieberman rants against John Warner's non-binding resolution characterizing it as ambiguous and inconsistent, supporting the troops but undermining the mission. In his reply to Lieberman, Hagel alludes to other non-binding resolutions, which led me to Non-Binding Joint Senate Resolution 44 from December, 1995 -"Concerning the Deployment of United States Armed Forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina." Some resolution excerpts:
  • Section 1) Expresses support for the troops saying "The Congress unequivocally supports the men and women of our Armed Forces who are carrying out their missions in support of peace in Bosnia"
  • Section 2) Questions President Clinton's mission for the troops starting with "...reservations expressed about President Clinton's decision to deploy United States Armed Forces to Bosnia and Herzegovina." and further specifies limitations on the deployment ordered by the President including a hard one year timeframe for certain conditions to be met.
  • Sections 3, 4 & 5) Requires the President to regularly report on specific timeframes, starting in 30 days with details on everything from progress in training Bosnia security, to refugees, to costs, to war plan details, and of course an exit strategy.
This non-binding resolution was co-sponsored by John McCain and Joe Lieberman. 69 Senators of both parties voted for it. Nuff said.

While the analysis and posturing continues unabated, no resolution challenging the escalation of the U.S. involvement in Iraq made it to the Senate floor. That makes Round 5 an unanimous decision for the President, but it may yet prove to be a pyrrhic victory for Republicans, ultimately costing more Senate seats.

In a post-script to Round 5 (and a preview of round 6) , Senator John Warner and six fellow Republican Senators formed an outlaw tag-team "Gang of Seven", and signed a letter to the Senate leadership threatening to put the entire Senate in a full nelson head-lock until their Resolution is debated.


The Washington Post reports:
"Democrats brushed off the Republicans' declaration as too little, too late. Reid spokesman Jim Manley said in a statement: "Senator Reid gave Senator Warner and the others a chance to vote for their own resolution on Monday, but only two of them chose to do so."
Too little too late? I don't think so. The Democrats have yet to remove their head from their collective ass.

UPDATE: February 12, 2007
Although tied up in an Executive pretzel hold, the Senate managed to reach through the ropes and tag their Congressional tag-team partner. Round 6 moves to the House of Representatives. Stay tuned...

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Monday Miscellany

We now return your blog to it's regularly scheduled posts. This has been a test of the Chicago Bear Sports Fan Network. If there had been a real championship in Chicago, you would have been instructed to link to a relevant blog and stand by for further instructions. This was only a test.

Da Bears took us on a fun run, but they could not close the deal. Congrats to the Colts, Tony Dungy, and Peyton Manning for playing a smart, physical, and gutsy game. Exactly the kind of game I was expecting the Bears to play. We were out-coached and out-played.

Time for a little house cleaning, time to store away the Bears logos, and clear up some of the clutter that has accumulated over the last two weeks. Time to get DWSUWF back on the political track.

Carnivale Notes & Call for Submissions
The Carnival of Divided Government is now on a monthly schedule. The next edition will be the Carnival of Divided Government DECIMUS - Special Presidents' Day Edition, to be posted in less than two weeks on Monday, February 19. Submit your blog article for the carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page. Be advised that in this edition (as in all of the CODGOV series) we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and mainstream media on the singular topic of government divided between the major parties. Use of the words "divided government" in submitted posts virtually guarantees inclusion in the carnival. Absence of those same words virtually guarantees exclusion from the carnival. That is, after all, what the Carnival is about.

In our Super Bowl induced mental fog, we have been remiss in acknowledging a fine selection of Blog Carnivals including:

Check 'em out. Good stuff.

Miscellany

Interesting vote today in the Senate on debating the non-binding resolution ... looks like we'll need to update the Executive/Legislative heavyweight boxing match over the next couple of days.

Finally, we apparently will not be able to avoid the migration to "New Blogger" much longer. It may happen this week. I have no confidence that this will go well. Pray for us.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government